While it can be accurately stated that all caviar is comprised of fish eggs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all fish eggs make caviar.
Just ask the Aaron family of Heber Springs, Ark.
Earlier this month, brothers Darwin and Russell Aaron were spearfishing at Greers Ferry Lake where they landed a longnosed gar, a prehistoric looking rough fish with a pointed snout and a mouthful of sharp teeth. They took the fish home and decided to see how it measured up as table fare.
“My husband had heard that gar were good to eat, and we’ve always been a family that’s up for trying anything once,” said Darwin’s wife, Tiffany.
A little culinary experimentation can be fun, but they should have stopped with the gar’s flesh. Instead, they decided to prepare the eggs found inside the fish, and the trouble started soon after.
Darwin, Russell and 10-year-old Carson Aaron, ate the gar and its eggs at about 8 p.m. April 5. Young Carson was the first to show signs of serious illness, and began vomiting by 1:30 a.m. Russell became violently sick by 3 a.m., followed by Darwin at 5 a.m.
Mrs. Aaron wisely took her son to Baptist Health Medical Center in Heber Springs where he was placed under observation. However, no one at the emergency room had any experience with gar eggs or information about their toxicity.
To find out more, the Medical Center subsequently contacted Lee Holt, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Fisheries Management Biologist conducting research on alligator gar.
“I made a lot of calls to gar experts I knew from my research,” said Holt. “Our main concern was the type of toxin. There was one mention of it possibly being cyanide-based. The doctor at the emergency room explained that treatment for cyanide poisoning can be just as harsh as the toxin, so we needed to make sure before (Carson) was given any treatments.”
After further research, Holt discovered that the toxin contained in gar eggs is protein-based, so the harsh treatments could be avoided.
A press release from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recounting the incident said the Aarons all recovered from the frightening episode, but the effects of the poisoning lingered for three days.
We can only guess that the Aaron family’s days of experimenting with never-before-tried food dishes are officially finished.